Amsterdam may be the land of sex, drugs, and windmills, but it’s also filled with fairytale architecture, indie boutiques, and concept restaurants. So grab your walking clogs and get going.
You’ll probably arrive through Centraal Station, close to the old center. From here, the city stretches out in a semicircle of four concentric canals. To the west is the Jordaan, home to the Anne Frank House and trendy cafes and bars. Get your Vermeer on at the Rijksmuseum in the Museum District, just past the canals and close to the Vondelpark. To the east lies the Pijp. It’s the less gentrified part of town, which naturally means it’s becoming boho chic.
One of the oldest and swankest hotels, InterContinental Amstel (Professor Tulpplein 1; +31-20-622-6060) has incredible riverbank views and a Turkish bath and spa. On the less traditional side and outside the city center, Lloyd Hotel (Oostelijke Handelskade 34; +31-20-561-3636) rates rooms from one to five stars, wherein each has a different layout and decor by Dutch artists. Fashion victims will be tickled by Boutique Hotel Patou (P.C. Hoofstraat 63; +31-20-676-0232), named for couturier Jean Patou. The name says it all at Chic&Basic Amsterdam (Herengracht 13-19; +31-20-522-2345), where 125 euros per night gets you a cute, modern room in a classic Amsterdam townhouse on a main canal.
The Nine Streets area in the city center has the best shopping scene — vintage boutiques, specialty food shops, and art galleries. Stock up on colorful goods at Filippa K (an Amsterdam fashion staple) and pretty plaid Sessùn tops at LockStock & Barrel (Hartenstraat 26; +31-20-421-3348). Head to Van Ravenstein (Keizersgracht 359; +31-20-639-0067) for high-end fashion and to Marlies Dekkers (Cornelis Schuytstraat 13; +31-20-471-4146) for fancy Dutch lingerie. And don’t miss Smaak (Leliegracht 16; +31-20-423-4403) for indie Euro designers (Stella Nova, Edith & Ella) and a primo selection of vintage-inspired sunglasses.
In the eastern, less-touristy part of town, Villa Ruysch (Ruyschstraat 15; +31-20-663-5366) appeals to the trendy with its bistro menu (entrecote with garlicky potato gratin, asparagus risotto) and glam decor (colorful mosaics, retro mirrors), especially on weekends. More wine bar than resto, Vyne (Prinsengracht 411; +31-20-344-6408) attracts gourmet connoisseurs with small — and impeccable — dishes like Dutch dried ham with apple syrup. But wine is the real focus, and bottles are presented with food suggestions rather than the other way around. For casual midday snacks, Cafe Tabac (Brouwersgracht 101; +31-20-622-4413) serves delicious dim sum and warm bitterballen (fried Dutch meatballs). Cafe Proust (Noordermarkt 4; +31-20-623-9145) in the Jordaan has tasty sandwiches — and a rad gun-shaped chandelier.
Art hounds can get their fill of Dutch masters at Rijksmuseum (the permanent collection is still open during construction) and see Vermeer’s best at Mauritshuis in The Hague. Design snobs can’t miss the new public library, for its MoMA-like glowing white walls and mod furniture.
And, of course, you can pass the Dutchie or pass on it altogether.